Initial Apple M1 SoC Support Aims For Linux 5.13 Kernel
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 8 April 2021 at 01:08 PM EDT. 43 Comments
HARDWARE --
While the independent effort to get the Apple M1 ARM-based SoC working under Linux has just been happening for a few months, with the upcoming Linux 5.13 cycle the very preliminary support for Apple's M1 and initial M1-powered devices looks to land.

Hector Martin sent in the pull request looking to have the initial Apple M1 support queued up as part of the ARM SoC/platform changes for the Linux 5.13 merge window that will in turn be opening up in a few weeks.

Since earlier this year have been a few rounds of Apple M1 Linux kernel patches for bringing up the essential drivers needed to get the Linux kernel booting on the 2020 Mac Mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air powered by the in-house Apple Silicon. It's in good enough shape that this very early code is likely to indeed land for Linux 5.13, which in turn will debut as stable in the June timeframe.

This initial Apple M1 Linux port gets the UART, interrupts, SMP, and DeviceTree bits in place for offering basic functionality. There is also a SimpleFB-based frame-buffer but getting working 3D/video acceleration will obviously be a daunting challenge.


Besides other areas of the Apple M1 platform support still to be addressed, getting the Apple M1's graphics fully working under Linux for day-to-day use is likely to take some time... Just take a look at the lengthy bring-up of the Raspberry Pi / Broadcom open-source graphics driver stack and that's where there is documentation and commercial activity involved. The Freedreno reverse engineering for Qualcomm Adreno graphics was a multi-year effort before becoming quite viable and similarly the Panfrost effort for Arm Mali was also quite an undertaking and in their case only now getting to working on Vulkan support. It will be surprising if this calendar year if they can even manage to get an accelerated desktop working good enough and reliable for basic day-to-day use on the M1.

In any case for those interested in more details on the initial Apple M1 patches trying to get into what will be the Linux 5.13 kernel can see this Git pull on the kernel mailing list.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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